On Sunday, we reluctantly said our goodbyes to our new favourite place, Wanaka, and headed back up north a little for a two night stop in Lake Tekapo.
Unfortunately, it rained ALL day from start to finish, spoiling many of the views on our journey. However, as we approached the small township of Lake Tekapo, we were astounded by the colour of the lake itself; because it’s so clear, the colour is basically a reflection of its surroundings, and the sky that day was completely white with cloud causing the lake to appear an almost fluorescent, bright blue colour. It was really quite surreal.
The views were awesome, but we hadn’t seen anything yet. Thankfully, we awoke the next morning to clear blue skies and glorious sunshine! As I walked through our holiday park, I was immediately amazed to see the horizon across the lake absolutely filled with snow-topped mountains – mountains that were literally invisible the previous day; hidden by low clouds and rainy mist. Suddenly, the views had escalated from awesome to possibly the most spectacular scene I’ve ever seen!
The lake had also returned to a more normal colour, but still a stunning blue by normal standards. It was a lovely green as well in the corners where the trees towered above it.
Staying with the topic of this amazing multi-coloured lake, later that evening we were treated to another simply breathtaking scene as the sun began to descend. Although the sun itself wasn’t visible, the rays it cast on the hills (whose snow had now melted) was absolutely perfect, projecting a browny-yellow-pink colour across the water. The sky, the mountains and the lake all blended perfectly – the whole scene was nothing short of unbelievable.
Anyway! Lake Tekapo is another small village which has evolved due to the tourism the area brings in, with a tiny centre containing a general store, some cafés/restaurants and several tourist booking places. There did seem to be a residential part of the village, but I suspect a large section of this would be holiday homes.
Somewhat oddly, another of Lake Tekapo’s main draws is a tiny old-style church, referred to as ‘The Church of the Good Shepherd’. One reason for its attraction is that there aren’t many traditional stone churches in New Zealand. Another reason is that it is a nice building aesthetically and its surroundings are on another level, making it the perfect postcard shot. It is simply part of a picture-perfect setting.
The nicely laid roads soon turned into gravel roads as we drove around one side of the lake to soak in the views from another perspective. It didn’t disappoint. Barely another soul on the road, surrounded by mountains and a beautiful lake on a stunning day. Just perfect.
The views were immense from all angles, but there was one more particularly good vantage point that would offer the most panoramic view of all! Mount John sits right next to the village and is easily accessible by car, being just a few minutes drive away (you can also walk if you’d prefer). As well as offering more ridiculous views over the Lake Tekapo village, the lake itself and the surrounding mountains, the summit is also home to New Zealand’s most famous observatory, with many tourists flocking to Lake Tekapo with one thing in mind; to see the stars.
Lake Tekapo is a real hotspot for stargazing, with light pollution in the area kept at an absolute minimum. There are night tours that take you to the observatory on Mt John to see the stars and maybe some planets through their sophisticated telescopes and whatnot. At $135 each though, we decided to settle for simply looking up when the night sky finally fully kicked in.
Although I’m sure the Mt John Observatory tour would have been amazing, we were certainly not let down by the sight offered through our own eyes. We were so lucky to have a perfectly clear night after the horribleness of the previous night and the scene did not disappoint. The stars were out in full force, visible in a long strip directly above – this may have been wishful thinking or my eyes playing tricks but I’m sure I even saw the faint, misty gasses of our Milky Way galaxy. This was definitely the best view of the stars I’ve ever seen and it’s the first time I’ve noticed them appear in such a distinctive narrow band rather than just randomly scattered across the sky. The best thing about it was being able to lie in our campervan gazing at the stars through the large sunroof whilst drifting off to sleep. What dreams are made of!
To backtrack slightly, we did splash out on one activity during the day… albeit only 20 bucks! Down on the lakefront we’re these weird looking bike-raft things – the best way to describe them would be like a small raft with 2 exercise bikes on top. So we had a bash!
Despite a horrible rainy welcome, we were grateful for some perfect weather for our second day in Lake Tekapo, which made it another highly enjoyable stop. This adventure just gets more epic by the day.
Now it’s onto Moeraki village on the east coast, a little further down from Oamaru (a fairly big town by NZ standards) and about 2.5 hours away from Lake Tekapo.